Team 4: Castle Busirane

By: Colin Doberstein and Chris Bang

 

            The main goal of our depiction of Castle Busirane was to convey the atmosphere that we felt Spenser had created. The text of The Faerie Queene gives the impression that every wall of the castle is lavishly decorated with beautiful tapestries. Since expanding the premade tapestries from Neverwinter Nights 2 to cover entire walls created unsightly smears of color, we decided to express the opulence of the castle in other ways, such as the brightly colored floors in the first two rooms. The shining crystals lining the floor in the second room served to enhance the decorative aspect as well as adding a magical touch to what is a wizard’s castle. Doors were added around the periphery of the larger (blue-floored) room in keeping with the text that said they should be there. We did have to cave and toss in one grossly expanded tapestry for the sake of the guys whose job it was to build a tapestry area (and it doesn’t look too bad, in all honesty). When characters interact with it, this tapestry will transport them to whatever tapestry-world Derek and Lee have whipped up.

            The back rooms of the castle shed the decorative look of the first two chambers, with the masque room being exceptionally stark. The only decoration in this room is a statue (convenient for hiding behind), allowing attention to be focused on the masque characters themselves, who Dan assures me are pimp-tastic. This brings us to Busirane’s room, where our artistic vision dictated a few additions to Spenser’s version of events.

            The most noticeable of these changes is the river of lava flowing through the room. We felt that this was a necessary addition to heighten the drama of facing off with big bad Busirane himself. We made the wizard a crusty, half-dead, looking fellow, and toyed with making him a vampire, but we couldn’t find vampire as a race, and weren’t sure how this would affect his attributes. Amoret…well, she’s pretty much just a decoration. This is Castle Busirane after all. So go, enjoy it. You’ll need something to entertain yourself now that this class of bloggers is moving on.

Britomart- An Iambic Perspective

By Colin Doberstein

A figure in white armor faces me
With golden trim and flowing auburn hair.
She doffs her helm so she can plainly see
The lad (in height her equal) standing there.
Against her pallid skin her eyes burn bright
Their color fit to match the ocean wet.
She holds her spear free, ready for a fight
Until she perceives that I am no threat.
And in a solemn voice, she says: “Well met.”

She seems to me, due to her warlike calm
Like Washington, a courtly fighting man.
She voted for Obama, whose new dawn
Will help the poor: her duty and her plan.
And so I say to her: “Hello there, ma’am.
Your choice of garments makes your knighthood clear.
Though I wish not your valiant heart to slam.
It seems that of you I should have no fear.
For as you walk, I see you shed a tear.”

“’Tis true” she sniffs with upper lip held firm.
“My love I search for but have yet to find.
And so, if Arthegall you do discern,
Bring him to me and give me peace of mind.”
To her I told the truth: “Your love is dead.
I killed him, his superior I am.
And so, to me your love shall soon have fled.”
She disagreed, and used her spear to ram
Straight through the parts that mark me as a man.

And so, my friends, I give you some advice:
Killing a hot knight’s lover has its price.
So if you feel the need to sate your loins
Remember well the story of my wounded groin.

Let’s Make This Quick, I Need to Go Play LOTRO

By Colin Doberstein

 

            As the title suggests, today’s post topic is how LOTRO has given me an excuse to not do anything more productive than kill virtual boars. Normally the guilt factor of playing a computer game instead of doing my homework allows me to stop playing and do my Chinese homework. Now that I’m in a class that assigns LOTRO as homework, however, that excuse goes out the window. Now, instead of doing my reading for Western Military History, I can say to myself: “Well, I have to play LOTRO at some point too. So why don’t I get that done now and do the boring stuff later?” The obvious problem is that when a hobbit urgently asks you to kill twenty-four wolves in the Old Forest, it just wouldn’t be right to keep him waiting. Twenty-four dead wolves later, it’s bedtime, and all my homework not in MMO form (which unsurprisingly includes every other assignment I have) will have to wait until tomorrow.

 

            For someone who is already the paragon of inefficiency and poor time management (the virtues championed by me in the little-known seventh book of the Faerie Queene), giving them any excuse to play a video game instead of doing their other work is a recipe for many late nights. This is obviously entirely my fault, but playing LOTRO this semester has probably cost me at least ten hours of sleep, maybe more. Basically, playing a computer game for homework further exacerbates the time management issues that already plague people such as myself because we can justify spending all night playing instead of just reaching the weekly benchmarks (why would I study chemistry? I have to level up so I can go to Weathertop!). This is not so much a gaming issue as it is a laziness issue, but I had to mention it because now that we have to play Neverwinter Nights 2 in addition to LOTRO, the likelihood of me ever finding time to post here again is slim. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I only have to kill another 100 goblins before I finish my next deed. Time is wasting.     

The Big Guys Upstairs

By Colin Doberstein

 

            For the readers out there (all three of you who are reading this instead of “World of Sexcraft?”) who doubted that these posts are assignments for a college class, here’s today’s assigned topic: “does corporate ownership of a MMO affect the narrative experience?” Yikes! Looks like we might actually learn something today. Thinking caps on, everyone…

 

             In order to answer this question, it seems necessary to consider the alternative to corporate ownership of an MMO. If the game is not corporately owned, an individual or a small group of people is probably privately running it. Eventually, the computers themselves may run the games (just think: The Matrix Online meets The Matrix), but for now a human hand must be on the rudder of the game world.

 

            With this in mind, how does a corporately run game differ in terms of narrative experience from one run by a single game master, possibly with the help of a small cadre of associates (the phrase “cadre of associates” makes the game’s rulers sound like James Bond villains, doesn’t it?). I don’t think that the mode of ownership makes a major difference in the narrative experience of a game, assuming “narrative experience” is defined as the interactions between players of a game and the game’s fiction. Games run by either power structure will have some kind of story for the player to progress through by interacting with a fictional game world. Both types of online overlord will take steps to keeps players playing within the rules, and while corporations have more resources to devote to this task, they also tend to have a larger player base, so the effect is likely to be the same. Due to the same advantage in resources, a corporately owned game is more likely to see regular updates and added content than a privately run MMO, but this only creates new narrative experiences rather than affecting the experience that exists. A game that was created by one person acting alone may be more sensitive to the tides of its players’ opinions, but its creator might also be even more resistant to change than a corporation since the game is the vision of that single person. Obviously, exceptions to all of the statements that I’ve made exist, but I think that who is running the game makes little difference when strictly speaking of the game’s narrative.

 

            So, in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” Hopefully we’ll have more fun next week (looking at the syllabus, I see sex is involved. This bodes well.)

Portrait of a Dwarf

By Colin Doberstein

 

           This is a biography of Bamfi, my Dwarf minstrel in Lord of the Rings Online. This post is not written by a singing dwarf. It is being written by a committee of five manatees pushing glass balls with words on them. Admit it: you’re not a bit surprised.

 

            Any discussion of the Shadowhide dwarves of the Ered Mithrin must begin with their distinctively dark skin color (hence the name). Bamfi and his clan have long lived deep under the Grey Mountains, and while no conclusive answer to why their skin is almost pitch black has been reached, the amalgamation of rumor and legend says that the rocks which crowd so tightly around Shadowhide strongholds have begun to imprint their characteristics upon the dwarves themselves. While this may or may not be true, the Shadowhides have taken care to cultivate this rumor, leading to the misguided belief among some that they are actually made entirely from living stone. Were such a misguided traveler ever to come into contact with a Shadowhide dwarf, it is unlikely that the dwarf would care to dispel that notion.

 

            Bamfi himself left the tunnels deep under the Grey Mountains because of the declining strength of the Shadowhide clan in that area. Since the intense darkness that pervades most Shadowhide settlements has necessitated a system of coordinated sounds to communicate over long distances, Bamfi found himself already in possession of the basic skills of a minstrel. Being fairly gruff and solitary (standard for most dwarves), Bamfi has taken up the life of a wanderer, adventuring to increase his own power with the hope of increasing the prestige of the Shadowhide dwarves across Middle-Earth.  

The Cowbell is Not Mightier Than the Sword

By Colin Doberstein

         As a minstrel, I smite the forces of evil in Middle-Earth with my cowbell, a one-dwarf symphony of destruction. My lute solos drain the life from my enemies’ bodies and my voice strikes fear into their very souls. Hordes of goblins, however, are beyond my power, so I found myself in a fellowship with two dwarven champions, whose methods of combat, while nowhere near as stylish as my own, are significantly more effective. This posed a problem for me: as I am accustomed to fighting on my own, I normally have to use my various ballads and cries to inflict enough damage to win a fight. Since my two companions were armed with swords and axes, rather than words and percussion instruments, I realized that my role as a dealer of direct damage was insignificant at best. I found myself grudgingly trying to boost my companions’ strength, healing them on the rare occasion that a puny goblin scored a lucky hit. My most significant contribution was looting the corpses that my fellows left behind in their haste to make more. We completed our quest with ease, but even though I was two levels higher than my compatriots, I felt completely unnecessary to the proceedings.

 

         I’m fairly sure that the two champions in my fellowship did not feel the same way. This is an example of what I’ve been told is the crippling paradox of a minstrel’s existence: we exist to aid our fellows, but in order to gain enough levels to do so, we must be able to fight on our own. This leads to a radical shift from the way I fight when I stand alone to the way in which I fight when part of a team. While this seems like a necessary consequence of being a supporting class, it really does get in the way of me developing a style of playing, since I have to throw it out the window once the situation changes. This breaks whatever immediate connection I have going with the game at that time, since I need to step outside my murderous musician for a moment. I can adjust to singing arias of aid, but I would rather be able to stick with songs of slaughter, since that’s what I do for 95% of my fights. 

Picking on Sam (How I’m Not the Only One)

By Colin Doberstein

In my first post, you may remember that I poked fun at one Samwise Gamgee for being essentially useless, except as moral support for Frodo. As far as the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring goes, I maintain that this characterization is true (don’t worry Merry and Pippin, you two are also mostly useless. I haven’t forgotten you). In the book, however, Sam’s character is more than just part of a hobbit comic relief trio. For those of us who use Sam’s feckless portrayal in the LOTR movies as a running joke in their blogs (don’t all jump at once), it is just a bit disappointing to read Tolkien’s text and see that Sam is capable of both acting and thinking independently from Frodo.

 

In the Green Dragon scene from the movie, Sam’s role is to make eyes at the fetching female bartender while the older hobbits around him discuss the troubling events outside of the Shire. As he leaves (with Frodo, of course) Sam forlornly watches a drunken hobbit flirt with his crush (not Frodo, the bartender girl). Frodo reassures Sam that she “knows and idiot when she sees one”, which leaves poor, simple Sam even more confused one he realizes that Frodo could just as easily be mocking him as comforting him.

 

In the book’s version of events, Frodo does not even make an appearance in the action of the scene. Instead, Sam debates Ted Sandyman on the swirling rumors of the increasingly unstable outside world. Even though most of the hobbits present disregard Sam’s position as fairy tales, the reader is presented with a thoughtful side of Sam, who, we are told on page 56: “had a good deal to think about.” From looking at these two visions of this scene, it becomes clear that the movie is setting Sam up to be the butt of most of its jokes, while the book wants him to be something of a contributor to the party. Have no fear though, Haters of Samwise, as long as there is life in my fingers, I swear to you that I will still attempt to mock everyone’s second favorite hobbit of questionable sexuality at every opportunity. That is my promise (that, and something about a white city. But that one seems less important).